Egypt is a predominantly Sunni Muslim country with Islam as its state religion. The percentage of adherents of various religions is a controversial topic in Egypt.
An estimated 90% are identified as Muslim, 9% as Coptic Christians, and 1% as other Christian denominations, although without a census the numbers cannot be known.
Estimates put the Christian population as high as 15–20%. Non-denominational Muslims form roughly 12% of the population.
Although Egypt was a Christian country before the 7th Century, after Islam arrived, the country was gradually changed into a majority-Muslim country.
It is not known when Muslims reached a majority variously estimated from ca. 1000 A.D. to as late as the 14th century. Egypt emerged as a centre of politics and culture in the Muslim world.
Under Anwar Sadat, Islam became the official state religion and Sharia the main source of law.
It is estimated that 15 million Egyptians follow Native Sufi orders, with the Sufi leadership asserting that the numbers are much greater as many Egyptian Sufis are not officially registered with a Sufi order.
At least 305 people were killed during a November 2017 attack on a Sufi mosque in Sinai.
There is also a Shi’a minority. The Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs estimates the Shia population at 1 to 2.2 million and could measure as much as 3 million.
The Ahmadiyya population is estimated at less than 50,000 whereas the Salafi (ultra-conservative) population is estimated at five to six million. Cairo is famous for its numerous mosque minarets and has been dubbed “The City of 1,000 Minarets”.
St. Mark Coptic Cathedral in Alexandria
Of the Christian population in Egypt over 90% belong to the native Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria, an Oriental Orthodox Christian Church. Other native Egyptian Christians are adherents of the Coptic Catholic Church, the Evangelical Church of Egypt and various other Protestant denominations.
Non-native Christian communities are largely found in the urban regions of Cairo and Alexandria, such as the Syro-Lebanese, who belong to Greek Catholic, Greek Orthodox, and Maronite Catholic denominations.
Ethnic Greeks also made up a large Greek Orthodox population in the past. Likewise, Armenians made up the then larger Armenian Orthodox and Catholic communities.
Egypt also used to have a large Roman Catholic community, largely made up of Italians and Maltese. These non-native communities were much larger in Egypt before the Nasser regime and the nationalisation that took place.
Egypt hosts the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria. It was founded back in the first century, considered to be the largest Church in the Middle East and North Africa.
Egypt is also the home of Al-Azhar University (founded in 969 CE, began teaching in 975 CE), which is today the world’s “most influential voice of establishment Sunni Islam” and is, by some measures, the second-oldest continuously operating university in world.
Egypt recognises only three religions: Islam, Christianity, and Judaism. Other faiths and minority Muslim sects practised by Egyptians, such as the small Bahá’í and Ahmadi community, are not recognised by the state and face persecution by the government, which labels these groups a threat to Egypt’s national security.
Individuals, particularly Baha’is and atheists, wishing to include their religion (or lack thereof) on their mandatory state issued identification cards are denied this ability and are put in the position of either not obtaining required identification or lying about their faith. A 2008 court ruling allowed members of unrecognised faiths to obtain identification and leave the religion field blank.